Monday, August 21, 2023

Book cover: "The Grandmother Stone" (aka "Stone of Terror")

  • Title: The Grandmother Stone
  • Author: Margaret Greaves (1914-1995). She was an English teacher who wrote many books, nearly all well-received, including The Dagger and The Bird, The Gryphon Quest, The Abbotsbury Ring and Cat's Magic. In a 2018 tweet (post on X), Christine Chambers raved, "Margaret Greaves is a wonderful story teller somehow keeps you guessing and gives you wonderfully magical descriptions." It definitely seems like it would be worthwhile to track down some more of Greaves' folklore-fueled novels.
  • Cover illustrator: Gareth Floyd (1940-2023). He died just last month, and his daughter Emma penned his obituary for The Guardian. She notes that her father provided many illustrations for the popular BBC children's show Jackanory: "Jackanory usually involved an actor, seated in an armchair, reading from children’s novels, with specially commissioned drawings shown on screen at various intervals. Gareth provided illustrations for more than 150 of its episodes." She also adds this delightful detail: "In addition to his drawing, Gareth was an excellent model maker, building miniature railway engines from scratch and running them on a track in his basement." Floyd's full dust jacket illustration can be seen below.
  • Publication date: 1972. 
  • Publisher: Methuen Children's Books, Ltd.
  • This edition: This copy is the 1980 reprint by Methuen.
  • U.S. version: The book was also published as Stone of Terror: A Story of Suspense by Harper & Row in 1974. I reckon the UK title wasn't considered spooky enough for the U.S. market.
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 173
  • Dust jacket price: £5.95
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "It was a small thin girl they hunted ... her face twisted with terror like a white mask pitted with darkness." When young Philip Hoskyn rescues the girl from her tormentors he is warned to stay away from her in the future — for Marie is the niece of Annette Perchon, outcast, witch and priestess of the Grandmother Stone. ... Set in the island of Sark in the seventeenth century, The Grandmother Stone is a fine perceived drawing of adolescent love against a turbulent background of witchcraft and passion.
  • Provenance: This copy is stamped as WITHDRAWN from Rhondda Borough Libraries in Wales. 
  • Dedication: "For my sisters"
  • First sentence: Philip Hoskyn walked quite unsuspectingly out of that bright spring evening into the event that shaped his life.
  • Last two sentences: They walked up the grassy track together, crinkling their eyes against the sun-dazzled air, drenched with the smell of warm wet earth. An oyster-catcher skimmed with its thin keening call just above the surface of the tide, and the island echoed with the morning clamour of the gulls.
  • Excerpt #1: He was only too willing to accept Jacob's view that the Stone was the object of ignorant superstition rather than a malignancy in her own right. But at night time she had a hold on his imagination that he could not escape.
  • Excerpt #2: He had heard it said by an old man in Dorset that the late King James, father of Charles Stuart, had been much injured by witches.
  • Excerpt #3: Everywhere there was grim evidence of last night's fury. Roads were filled with earth and loose stones washed from the banks, and rutted with water. Fields were waterlogged, apple orchards more than half stripped. Near the graveyard charred and broken stumps of wood left blackened trails among the trampled grass and churned earth. The Grandmother Stone smiled there alone under the blank sky, leaning at a drunken angle against the graveyard wall.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.88 stars (out of 5)
  • Online reviews: There's not much. Kirkus did a review in 1974 that contains a bit of spoiler. Capn wrote a long, detailed and generally positive review on Goodreads last year that also contains spoilers but concludes with "TL:DR - complex religious psychology, abusive situations, adolescents, and detailed descriptions of the Channel Island of Sark." Capn's piece is thoughtful and well worth checking out. I'm glad to see lesser-known "old" books getting reviews such as this. 

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